Bad Blood in Georgian Bristol. The Murder of Sir John Dineley



Authors: Steve Poole and Nick Rogers

In 1741, Sir John Dineley, a gentleman with substantial west country land holdings was abducted on the streets of Bristol in broad daylight, rowed down the Avon to the Channel and forced onto a warship captained by his own brother, Samuel Goodere. There he was locked onto a cabin by Goodere and murdered by two hired seamen, Charles White and Matthew Mahony. Dineley’s death terminated a bitter and long running feud between the two brothers over the rightful inheritance of the family estates and their dwindling fortunes. Goodere was no criminal mastermind and there seemed little doubt of his guilt. He, White and Mahony were swiftly arrested, then tried and convicted at Bristol Assize and condemned to death by public hanging on St Michael’s Hill. Then Mahony’s body was placed inside an iron gibbet cage and suspended from a tall pole at the mouth of the Avon, a grim and permanent warning to all incoming shipping that murder would not be sanctioned.

The Bristol fratricide caused a national sensation in Georgian England. Numerous graphic pamphlet accounts of the trial and execution quickly followed, embellishing the gruesome details for an eager public, and digging back into the history of the feud. And a hundred years later, interest was rekindled when Richard Smith, chief surgeon at the Bristol Infirmary, collected Mahony’s remains from the Swatch for his medical museum and published a lengthy doggerel poem on the murder.

This book places the case in a wider context. It meticulously explores the Dineley/Goodere feud and carefully analyses both the murder and the trial. What persuaded Goodere that killing his brother was his only remaining option, and why did he make such little attempt to conceal it? Why was the Georgian public so captivated by the idea of ‘fratricide’, and how did the story of Mahony’s gibbet come to exert such a powerful influence over the city’s collective memory – and Richard Smith – a century later?

About the authors

Steve Poole is Professor of History and Heritage at the University of the West of England, Bristol and  has been Director of the University’s Regional History Centre since 2004. He is a commissioning editor for Redcliffe’s Studies in Regional History, producing the first of these, A City Built Upon the Water: Maritime Bristol, 1750-1900 in 2013. He has published widely on histories of criminality and protest in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, with particular emphasis on the South West and his books include The Politics of Regicide, 1750-1850: Troublesome Subjects (Manchester UP 2000), John Thelwall: Radical Romantic and Acquitted Felon (Pickering and Chatto, 2009) and, with Nicholas Rogers, Bristol From Below: Law, Authority and Protest in a Georgian City (Boydell, 2017). He is currently leading a major three-year research project on riots and crowd mobilisation during the 1831 Reform crisis, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Nicholas Rogers is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, York University, Toronto. He is the author of eight books on the eighteenth century and one on a cultural history of Halloween. Among the eight are Crowds, Culture and Politics in Georgian Britain (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998) and Mayhem. Post-war Crime and Violence in Britain, 1748-1753 (New Haven: Yale UP, 2012), both of which won book awards. More recently he co-authored with Steve Poole, Bristol from Below: Law, Authority and Protest in a Georgian City (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017) and wrote a microhistory of a slave-trade scandal, Murder on the Middle Passage. The Trial of Captain Kimber (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2020). From 2000-2005 he co-edited The Journal of British Studies with Professor James Epstein of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. He is a Bristolian by birth.